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Legislator frustrated with lack of ethics reforms steps down from committee

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(The Center Square) – A leading Republican at the Illinois Statehouse says he stepped down from the House ethics committee because of a lack of action.

Earlier this month, state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, stood with former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to push for various ethics reforms. The push comes in the wake of the ComEd corruption scandal that’s resulted in convictions of four former utility officials and lobbyists.

Charges are pending against former House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, for what federal prosecutors allege was a nearly decade-long scheme of using his public office for personal gain. He faces trial later this year.

Spain said he stepped down from the House Ethics and Elections Committee.

“It’s been very disappointing to me and frustrating,” Spain said. “I have a lot respect for the chairman of that committee but I’ve actually volunteered to leave that committee to take on a different assignment just because there hasn’t been a lot happening on that committee.”

Spain said there should be more action and hearings on ethics reforms in Springfield.

“I was so excited that we had created in the House in the aftermath of Speaker Madigan an Ethics and Elections Committee,” Spain said. “Boy, it should have been the busiest committee in all of state government and it just hasn’t been so far.”

Committee chair, state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said he doesn’t like to make ethics a partisan issue and the committee will address ethics this spring.

“I have ethics bills. There are other people who have ethics bills. I’m confident that we will have subject matter hearings on those bills,” West told The Center Square earlier this month.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, was able to present her ethics reform package in House Bill 4119 that included, among other things, prohibiting elected officials from using their campaign fund to defend against criminal or civil charges.

“We have not passed any ethics legislation this General Assembly and I would argue any significant ethics reform since I was elected in 2017,” said McCombie. “This is not acceptable, and it is our responsibility that a lack of action does not continue.”

McCombie’s office said her bill “would close a loophole that has enabled bad actors, including former Speaker Mike Madigan, to use millions of dollars in funds from his campaign coffer, ‘Friends of Michael Madigan,’ to pay for legal fees as he fights federal corruption and racketeering charges.”

“We have watched investigations, arrests, trials, and convictions come and go for decades, and this chamber has an opportunity to be the leaders on this topic,” McCombie said.

The measure has yet to advance.

Legislators are off this week. They return April 2.

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